A few days ago, congress had a fierce debate on the idea of troop withdrawals. In the face of two Democratic proposals for setting a date on withdrawal from Iraq, Republican congressmen repeatedly referred to those proposals as “cut and run.” This is very much consistent with the strategy Karl Rove has suggested for the Republican Party during the upcoming elections. The implication of the “cut and run” labeling pretty clearly seems to be that the Democrats are cowards, lacking the fortitude to see the conflict through to its conclusion. They don’t have the spine for governing, Rove’s plan suggests. Leadership takes resolve, and the Democrats haven’t got it.
The premise of this position is one I find rather distasteful. It turns foreign policy into nothing more than simian chest-beating. We can’t let America look weak. They’ll think we’re not manly enough. We gotta stick it out until we’ve shown those insurgents who’s boss.
This isn’t some John Wayne western. This isn’t Jr. High. This is the real world. We and our leaders should have outgrown such a juvenile attitude. That sort of macho pride has no place in our foreign policy or our politics. No good can come from it. Succumbing to it in the past led to our escalation and ultimate defeat in the Vietnam War. At root, it is simply another manifestation of pride.
A foreign policy based on integrity and moral principles isn’t based on how our nation “looks” to other nations. It isn’t concerned with “face.” It is concerned exclusively with the best interests of the American people and the world with which we interact. If serving those interests means ending a war without clearly and decisively “winning” or achieving our objectives, we should do it—regardless of what other nations or our enemies might think.
A case can be made that, regardless of how immoral the instigation of the conquest of Iraq, continued military presence can help stabilize the region and facilitate the ultimate transfer of power to the Iraqi people. The Republicans should convince us of that case, if they can. But if they keep up their testosterone driven chest-beating, making the occupation an issue of backbone and cajones and never backing down from a fight, and they merely show us how disingenuous they are when they when talking about the Prince of Peace.